We stumbled on beautiful organic Anjou pears on sale last week and scooped up half a dozen. We had no plan. At the time we thought they’d be a perfect accompaniment to goat cheese and walnuts for a satisfying quick lunch, or we’d munch on them as they ripened for an afternoon snack. Who knew we’d end up making a last minute dinner party and be in need of a dessert?
Remember our post Old Wine Rewind, about poaching dried fruits in leftover wine? In it, we sing a song about the wonder of leftover spirits, yes, sometimes there are leftovers, and we just happened to have a nearly full bottle of Spanish red wine on hand. So, our plan was to apply the same principle to poaching the pears as we do to poaching dried fruits. While this sounds like a lot of work. It wasn’t. We were in the kitchen cooking, writing, talking, eating all day anyway, so minding the wine m
ixture and poaching the fruit was not heavy lifting. It filled the house with delicious smells and we felt like mad scientists adjusting and minding our brew and pears.
Poached Pears in Red Wine
Into a deep pot we poured the wine, 3/4 cup of water, 3/4 cup sugar, a stick of cinnamon, 2 star anise, 3 pods of green cardamom, 3 cloves, 6 black peppercorns, the juice and zest of an orange (that’s what we had, you could easily use a tangerine), a pinch of kosher salt, 1/2 cup dried cherries (again because we had them on hand you could use craisins, raisins or nothing at all). We brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down to medium.Our goal? To cook it down a bit to concentrate the flavors.
After 30 minutes we tasted it to find the the wine was a bit too dry with a lot of tannin. We added another 1/4 cup sugar and set it to cook for another 30 minutes or just until it cooked down to have a little viscosity. We turned the heat to the lowest of simmers put the whole peeled pears in the pot and turned them gently, every 10 minutes or so, to infuse them with the color and flavor of the wine.
Once they had softened — careful, you don’t want them mushy– and turned a beautiful mahogany color we removed them. Our pears were very firm and it took them almost an hour to soften and color–again, this will depend on the kind of pear you use and their ripeness.
This is optional: We measured out two cups of the wine mixture into a separate pot. We added 1/2 cup sugar (really, we don’t have a sweet tooth), a a sprig of rosemary (just cause it was there) and brought it to a boil until it became syrupy. This we set aside.
We placed the pears into a serving dish along with the balance of the poaching liquid until we served them.
To serve: Place a pear on the plate, scatter the cooked cherries around them and drizzle the syrup across the pears. Garnish with fresh mint and a tablespoon or two of Fromage Blanc .
Remember, cooking is an art not a science. Have fun with this, adapt it to suit your taste.
(By the way, save the syrup and use it on everything from yogurt to crispy chicken breasts.)